Monday, December 10, 2018

Fermented Acorn - Sour Brown

The first week of October, DC posted a notice on our front door informing us that an arborist deemed the oak tree in our front yard hazardous. Up until that moment, it would have been illegal to cut down as a "heritage" tree (over 100" in circumference). They gave us 10 days to apply for a permit and have it removed. The tree had obviously been on the down-slope for the last 10 years, but this summer a large swath had gone brown mid-August and the rest in late-September.

I was sad to see the tree go, but glad I got to brew a beer with acorns foraged from it before it went!

Oak tree removal

Last fall, inspired as usual by The Homebrewer's Almanac, I collected acorns over a few afternoons. While fresh acorns are loaded with tannins, fermented they are said to take on a wonderful aromatics reminiscent of bourbon, Madeira, and plums. The various parts of any plant usually contain shared compounds (and flavors). It has become fashionable to cook with the "garbage" parts of plants (and animals) usually thrown away. While it takes more effort to prepare collard green stems or pork feet, it can be well worth it. While oak wood is used to age thousands of beers, its acorns, leaves, and bark are not nearly as popular.

I inspected each acorn to remove any that were cracked, or otherwise marred. I briefly rinsed them, and then arranged in a single layer on a shallow baking dish in the basement to allow them to dry.

Acorns before sorting and drying

Apparently my inspection wasn't thorough enough as I missed several small blemishes (example below) that indicated an acorn weevil had laid an egg inside.

Acorn Weevil hole

A week later, after discarding those where a larva bored out, I moved the acorns to five lightly sealed pint mason jars. I didn't add water, microbes, or anything else.

Fermenting acorns in mason jars

Over the next nine months in my 65F basement the acorns slowly fermented on their own. First producing carbon dioxide and the pleasant aroma of ethanol. Then slowly a more complex aromatics of apricot, chocolate, and bourbon. Exactly which microbes are responsible is a mystery to me.

When I visited Scratch Brewing last November (on my drive from St. Louis to Indianapolis for the BYO Boot Camp... next one is March in Asheville) I had the chance to assist Marika on a batch at Scratch, and see their jars of fermenting acorns. Luckily for them, Aaron told me weevils haven't been an issue!

Acorns fermenting at Scratch Brewing

By the following summer, my acorns were smelling like a combination of whiskey distillery, apricot orchard, and old library. While their exteriors were unchanged, the interior transformed from beige to leathery brown. Non-enzymatic browning, that is to say the Maillard reaction may be at work as with black garlic? While these processes are accelerated at high temperature, they still happen when cooler.

I thought an oud bruin-ish base would provide a solid foundation for those darker flavors. I added flaked rye for body and fermented with East Coast Yeast Oud Brune (which contains no Brett, only Sacch and Lacto). ECY Flemish Ale is still hard at work on the other half of the batch. Once the Oud Bruin was finished, I added a tube screen with one cup of the cracked (with a hammer) acorns. After a few weeks I added another cup to increase the flavor contribution.

Cracked acorns

I'm hoping to use the remaining fermented acorns in a small batch at Sapwood Cellars, but the TTB isn't going along with my plans... yet. They've directed me to contact the FDA. It's amazing how many weird chemicals are approved, when a food that people have eaten for thousands of years is not.

Requiem for an Oak

Smell – Even at the higher rate the acorn character doesn’t leap out of the glass. It does have a richer, more woody-fruity aroma than any other quick sour I’ve brewed. I get some of that old book smell mingling with the Munich maltiness. There is also a brighter stonefruit aroma that prevents it from being too heavy.

Appearance – Pretty amber-brown color. Mild haze. Retention of the tan head is OK especially for a sour beer, although nothing remarkable.

Taste – Firm lactic acid, snappy without being overwhelming. The fermented acorns add leathery and fruity depth to the flavor without stepping all over the malt. I’m pretty happy with this as a lower alcohol oud bruin.

Mouthfeel – The flaked rye really helped considering this is a low alcohol sour beer. Doesn’t taste thin or watery.

Drinkability & Notes – For such a unique beer, it is pleasant to drink. The flavors meld nicely and the acorns help to simulate in a way the effect of barrel aging and Brettanomyces.

Changes for Next Time – I’d probably go even more aggressive with the acorn-rate, really to show them off. The beer could be bigger, but more malt might obscure the acorns even more.

Finished acorn oud bruin

Recipe

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 18.0
IBU: 2.0
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.010
ABV: 4.7%
Final pH: 3.43
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 90 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
60.4% - 16.00 lb Briess Pilsen Malt
22.6% - 6.00 lb Weyermann Munich I
11.3% - 3.00 lb Flaked Rye
3.8% - 1.00 lb Castle Special B
1.9% - 0.50 lb Weyermann Carafa Special II

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 157F

Hops
-------
1.25 oz - 8 Year Old Willamette (Whole Cone, 1.00 % AA) @ 85 minutes

Water
--------
11 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
100
110
50
15
10
90

Other
-------
Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins
2 Cup Fermented Acorns @ Fermenter

Yeast
-------
East Coast Yeast Flemish Ale
East Coast Yeast Oud Brune

Notes
-------
9/29/17 Harvested five pints of acorns from the White Oak in my front yard. Allowed to dry open in the basement.

10/6/17 4 larvae of an acorn weevil hatched. Tossed any acorns with exit holes, and tried to identify all of those with small entry holes to toss. Moved remaining acorns to one-pint mason jars, attached lids, and returned to the barrel room for fermentation.

Brewed 7/9/18

7/29/18 Added 1 cup of acorns (split and in a mesh tube with marbles) to the Oud Bruin half.

8/18/18 Added another cup of acorns, loose, as the flavor wasn't there yet.

8/28/18 Racked Flemish half to secondary in glass.

9/9/18 Kegged acorn half.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Wine Yeast Sour Red (Again)

So odd to get one of my favorite and least favorite sours out of the same wort (recipe). The half with cherries was magical, the half without is bland and listless. In addition to no cherries, this half had BM45 red wine yeast and Wyeast Roeselare in place of 58W3 and dregs from a De Garde bottle. I had reasonable results with BM45 in this Red Wine Yeast Flemish Ale, so I don't think it is to blame.

It seemed like a good time to revisit this batch because the scaled-up version went into barrels on Saturday. For the 10 bbl batch we used 58W3 for primary fermentation in stainless steel. We procured three Pinot Noir barrels plus two bourbon barrels for aging. My hope is that the spirit barrels provide a nice vanilla character to mingle with the cherries. Each will get a dose of microbes, East Coast Yeast Flemish Ale, Wyeast Roeseleare, and maybe additional microbes from our collection. Two of the barrels got 25 lbs of dried sour cherries. Next summer, when fresh sour cherries are available, we'll select barrels and blend into a tote for additional fruiting.


Wine Yeast Sour Red

Smell – Spice, caramel, apple sauce. A weird mix that doesn’t really remind me of a Flemish red. That wouldn’t be a bad thing if the flavors were enticing or synergistic.

Appearance – Pretty thick head. Nice reddish-brown color with abundant chill haze (judging from the clarity of warmer pour previously). Pretty beer at least!

Taste – Interesting spice notes as in the nose. Cinnamon especially. The fruitiness reminds me of quince paste, sort of apple, but not quite. Tart, but not really sour. The malt is one-dimensional, toasty. Not impressed by Roeselare as the sole source of microbes.

Mouthfeel – Thin, a bit watery despite finishing at 1.016. Solid medium-carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – A real meh beer. Not off in any specific way, there just isn’t anything to carry the beer.

Changes for Next Time – For the scaled-up version, we swapped the Briess base malts for equivalent Castle malts. Other than the variety of microbes and barrels, we'll be sticking pretty close to the script for the cherry version.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Craft Cleaning: Cylindroconical Fermentor CIP

Brewers often joke that they spend more time cleaning than on any other aspect of the job. That isn't quite true at Sapwood Cellars, but the cleaning aspect has been the biggest change from homebrewing. By comparison, wort production hasn't been that difficult or different. Sure it took a few batches to acclimate to the efficiency and losses on our 10 bbl Forgeworks brewhouse (as with any new brewing system), made more challenging by an unreliable flow meter. Even 15 batches in despite hitting our target mash temps, wort fermentability seems to be lower than expected. We're also still dialing in hop utilization given the thermodynamics involved with large wort volumes. Still, the concepts, ingredients, and techniques are all pretty similar to homebrewing.

When it comes to cleaning and sanitizing though, we've had to relearn the entire process. You really can't fill a fermentor with 360 gallon of Oxiclean Free and soak overnight or swirl and scrub... I miss those days. First, let's talk about chemicals and what they do. Our main supplier is AFCO, but Berko, Five-Star, and Loeffler all have fans. Prices seemed similar, we just didn't think about ordering until a couple weeks before we started brewing and picked the one with the quickest turnaround time. We buy most of the chemicals in 5 gallon jugs, and pump them into beakers to measure and dose.

The chemicals we use to clean and sanitize our brewery.

Chemicals

Caustic (5229 Caustic) - Caustic is the primary cleaner used by most breweries. Usually sodium hydroxide based and heavily alkaline. It is ideal for breaking down and removing organic deposits (e.g., krausen rings). You can do a bit of trading-off between time, temperature, pressure, and concentration. That said, 2-3% caustic at ~150F (66C) for 20-30 minutes through the sprayball has been a pretty good place to start for us. Caustic is dangerous because it is capable of breaking down your skin (the lye used in soap making is similar). We started with a powdered caustic (Wash-It), but given the price and efficacy we transitioned to liquid.

Phosphoric-Nitric Acid Blend (5397 Microlex Special 30) - Acid helps to remove inorganic deposits, i.e., beerstone (calcium oxalate). It also helps to neutralize any residual caustic (not that there should be any with adequate rinsing) and to passivate stainless steel. Acid blend is used at similar temperatures and cycle lengths as caustic, although slightly cooler, ~130F (54C).

Five Star Peroxyacetic Acid (PAA) - While there are many sanitizers available, PAA is the most popular for breweries. At the right concentrations it is a robust sanitizer with high effectiveness. It breaks down to acetic acid, so it can be used no-rinse. It is a powerful oxidizer, which makes it important to drain any residual before fermented beer enters a tank or keg. Our bucket was leftover from the old brewery in our space, so we bought a pack of test strips and it still reads the expected concentration after dilution.

Five Star PBW - We have a bucket of this alkaline powered cleaner for soaking hot-side equipment and other gear where we don't want to have to be as careful as we would with caustic. We both used it at home, so were more comfortable with it than the Chlorinated Manual Cleaner we started with.

Iodophor (4330 Spark I2) - Similar to the PBW, it is nice to have a less hazardous sanitizer for spraying ports or soaking fittings. It is only effective on clean surfaces, so it is important to remove of detritus before expecting it to work.

Grain Alcohol - Given its quick kill times and evaporation ethanol is the ideal sanitizer for spray bottles and any surfaces that are highly sensitive (e.g., yeast culturing). Isopropyl alcohol is another option.

General Concepts

Pre-Heating - At this scale a tank has so much thermal mass that you can't simply put 15 gallons (57 L) of hot water to a tank and expect it to still be hot after circulating. As a result if you want the caustic or acid to stay hot, you need to pray hot water into the tank. A tank with an electric element (like our keg washer has) helps too.

Sprayball - Most tanks have a port that leads to a sprayball, a small metal orb that spins and sprays when liquid is forced through. These aren't always perfect, and can have blind spots, especially in ports and above it. In addition, it isn't effective at cleaning its own exterior.

A sprayball from our kettle.

Passivation - This is what makes stainless steel stainless, a thin layer of chromium atoms at the surface that prevents iron from rusting or leeching into the beer (which weakens the equipment and shortens its lifespan). With a pristinely clean surface, the oxygen in the atmosphere is enough to accomplish this, but acids (especially nitric) are more effective.

Safety

These chemicals aren't anything to joke about. Many brewers have scars gained from caustic or acid dripping onto their skin . Safety glasses, long gloves, chemical resistant boots and pants are a must when handling them. Read the safety data sheet for each chemical you are using and know what to do if some gets on your skin or in your eyes. I don't get to drink as much beer as I used to because the end of the day is usually the most dangerous time.

Scott and I prefer to have all of the tank's arms connected from the start, allowing us to use valves to direct the flow of the cleaning and sanitizing solutions. We started off using a manifold coming off the pump, but have changed to daisy-chained T's between the arms. Many brewers prefer to simply move a single output line from the pump between the arms. This requires less setup time, but more active effort once cleaning begins (moving the hose from arm to arm ~10 times through the process). It also carries additional risks if you move the hose without closing a valve.

Our Fermentor CIP Process

1. Once the beer is out of a tank, we turn off the glycol jackets and open the dump valve. We then shoot high-pressure cold water through the sprayball to remove most of the hops/yeast struck to the sides and bottom.

2. We use our on-demand hot water heater to generate 130F (54C) water to spray through the sprayball and manually through a hose to dislodge the bulk of the crud stuck to the sides/top of the fermentor. We'll run it through the pump to get good coverage.

Tankless on-demand hot water heater.

3. We briefly remove the lower fittings on the tanks (including manway, racking arm, thermometer, sample port) to spray out the trub caught in them.

4. We blow compressed air through the sprayball at ~30 PSI with the bottom valve open for 30 minutes. CO2 neutralizes caustic, so best to remove as much as possible before proceeding. This long is likely overkill for a 10 bbl tank, but can't hurt.

5. We assemble our cleaning rig, usually a pump running to the sprayball, with a T to connect it to the racking arm and another to the blow-off.

The pump we use for cleaning.

The fermentor during the cleaning process.

5. We preheat the tank for a couple minutes by spraying 160F (71C) water in and letting it drain. We hook the water line in right before the pump so we can immediately go to cleaning once it is preheated. Our goal is to get the tank to read ~130F (54C).

6. We then use the hot water heater's built-in meter to send 10-15 gallons of 160F (71C) water into the tank. We dose in 3 oz of caustic per gallon (2.3%) using a stainless steel elbow on one of the ports (chasing the caustic with water to ensure it get in). We then turn the elbow down to allow that port to equalize the pressure inside the tank, while preventing caustic from spitting out.

7. I like to send a little flow through the blow-off and racking arm first to soak them during the 20-25 minutes sprayball at full pressure (60 hz on our pump - or a bit slower if it cavitates). Then five minutes through the other arms, before a final five through the sprayball.

6. Dump the caustic. Rinse each arm with hot water, then burst rinse 10 times for 10 seconds at 130F (54C) through the sprayball, allowing it to drain before each successive rinse. I'll often put 10-15 gallons (38-57 L) into the tank once or twice and recirculate at the end to make sure there is enough pressure to spray all the surfaces. You can check the pH of the drained rinse water to ensure it has returned close normal before proceeding.

2. We then take off all of the fittings (including the sprayball itself), soak them in PBW or caustic. We inspect the fittings and gaskets, rinse and put into a bucket of iodophor. For the ports we spray, scrub and spritz with iodophor before reassembling. We also take the chance to inspect the interior with a flashlight to ensure there are no deposits.

7. We run acid blend at 2 oz per gallon (1.5% by volume) using roughly the same process and times as the caustic. Significantly higher concentrations should be used on new equipment and once a year to ensure adequate passivation.

8. Usually we'll air-dry at this point unless we need the tank the following day. In that case we'll rinse and then sanitize with peroxyacetic acid in cool water at 200 PPM using the same rig, and pressurize the tank to 4 PSI of CO2 to ensure it holds. The next morning we'll dump any residual sanitizer from each port before running wort or beer in.

The whole process including sanitation takes three hours, but most of that time isn't active (just waiting for a purge, or cycle). Going longer on any of the times isn't a big deal, so it is easy to run while working on other things if you keep track of your progress and don't miss a step.

We haven't gotten a CIP cart with dedicated vessels and pump, so our biggest issue currently is that it is difficult for one of us to clean a tank while the other person brews because they require some of the same equipment. Luckily our current schedule of two batches a week doesn't make that too much of an issue.

I am by no means holding this up as a perfect or ideal process. It'll likely be viewed as overkill by some, and inadequate by others. But if you have constructive suggestions, I'd love to hear them! I'd rather err towards overkill because we're dealing with several yeast strains (including killer wine yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus, not to mention Brettanomyces and Pediococcus in a dedicated tank), although we do have the advantage of only dealing with kegs stored cold.

Other Pieces

We addition we'll pump the same chemicals through our heat exchanger and carbonation stone. For the heat exchanger we also heat pasteurize by running 180F (82C) water for 20 minutes inline once we assemble our knock-out rig (we discard the water until we see wort before sending to the fermentor). Our keg cleaner automatically does the same process on our sanke kegs, including air and CO2 purges to recapture the caustic and sanitizer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Rings of Light - Hazy Pale Ale

Cleared by the final runnings.

My homebrewing-rate has slowed dramatically the last couple months, not coincidentally we brewed our first batch at the brewery around that time (House Saison brew day). Part of that is brewing 10 bbls about twice a week, the rest is how much time I spend at the brewery doing other stuff. My plan for The Mad Fermentationist is to keep up the same style of post, with recipes and tasting notes for occasional Sapwood Cellars beers. I'll still document homebrew batches when I can, mostly test batches or experiments with impractically weird ingredients.

The first beer I wanted to cover is my favorite of the initial four clean batches, Rings of Light. For those interested the name, is a subtle The Fellowship of the Rings reference: "They watched the pale rings of light round his lanterns as they dwindled into the foggy night." It is exactly the sort of beer I love drinking, moderate alcohol (4.8% ABV), but with a huge hop flavor and aroma and a surprisingly luscious mouthfeel. Luckily Untappd reviews have been pretty positive, and it is our tasting room's top seller so far!

You'll likely recognize most of the elements of the recipe as things Scott and I have been doing for years. Golden Naked Oats, Chit malt, Boddington's yeast (RVA Manchester), moderate-high chloride and sulfate, less expensive hops in the boil (Cascade and Columbus), and Citra dry-hopping. We added mid-late fermentation additions to several of our other batches, but this one was soft-crashed to 58F before dry hopping so we could harvest the yeast for re-pitching into an IPA (Cheater Hops) and DIPA (Uncontrollable Laughter). 

Scott dry hopping Rings of Light.

The process tweaks have mostly been to account for the differences related to the physics of working at scale. For example, usually I'd add a small dose of hops at 15 minutes to up the bitterness, but in this case the extended contact after flame-out makes that unnecessary (between whirlpool, settling, and run-off near-boiling wort is in contact with hops for more than a hour). In fact, we added one barrel of cold water at flame-out to lower the whirlpool temperature to reduce isomerization. Beersmith 3 includes the capability to specify the average temperature of the wort during the whirlpool, still the estimate seems to be wildly higher than the perceived bitterness. I wonder if the hops settling, mixing with the proteins in the trub-cone slows the isomerization rate?

It has taken a little time to dial in our Forgeworks brew house. We achieved slightly lower efficiency and attenuation on this batch than expected for example. We've made a few mistakes and miscalculations along the way, but given neither of us had brewed frequently at a commercial scale I'm happy to report that things have been relatively smooth. Our biggest issues have been with the durability of the equipment itself. For example the rakes in the mash tun detached from the motor twice, and our burner shorted after a boil-over. What is taking the most effort to optimize is our cleaning and sanitation regimen. 

Kegging pale ale.

Thanks to everyone who came out to our grand opening last weekend! I didn't expect as many fans of the blog to drive from an hour or more away to try the beers and say hello. Either Scott or I will be there most of the time we're open, so let us know! Happy to show you around and talk brewing. For those further away, I'm also running the brewery's Twitter and Facebook accounts for now (Scott took Instagram because I couldn't figure it out).

Rings of Light in the tasting room.

Rings of Light

Smell – Pleasantly mango-melon hop aroma. As it approaches room temperature I get a slightly toasty-vanilla-richness thanks to the yeast playing off the Golden Naked Oats. Otherwise a pretty clean/fresh aroma.

Appearance – Pleasantly hazy yellow, glowing in the right lighting. I guess we did an adequate job avoiding oxygen pickup during transfers and kegging as it hasn’t darkened! We certainly pulled some hop matter into the bright tank, but it mostly settled out and stayed behind when we kegged, as I don’t see any particulate in the pour. Head is really thick, but could have better retention.

Taste – I really love the flavor on this, really saturated with juicy hops. Similar to the aroma, the tropical flavors from the Citra dominate the Cascade and Columbus. We were surprised how hop-forward it was even before dry hopping (perhaps thanks to the deep kettle slowing the evaporation of the oils?). Bitterness is pleasant, but restrained. Well below the estimated 70+ IBUs, more like 40-50 to my palate.

Mouthfeel – Full bodied, especially for a  sub-5% beer. That is thanks to the oats, and low attenuation (which allowed for more malt for the given alcohol). As usually the substantial texture of the head from the chit malt really enhances the perception of creaminess.

Drinkability & Notes – Glad this beer ended up as an early-fall release. It is a little full for a quenching summer pale ale, but it is perfect for temperate weather. The hops are well balanced, and provide enough interest to demand each additional sip. The malt mostly stays hidden, while providing adequate support.

Changes for Next Time – We’ve already got a new batch of this fermenting with the same grist and kettle-hops, although given the tweaks (higher original gravity and different yeast: Lallemand New England and S-04) it may receive a different name.

Recipe

Batch Size: 315.00 gal
SRM: 4.9
IBU: 73.7
OG: 1.052
FG: 1.018
ABV: 4.8%
Final pH: 4.54
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68%
Boil Time: 60 Mins

Fermentables
-----------------
75% - 495 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
16.7% - 110 lbs Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
8.3% - 55 lbs Best Chit Malt

Mash
-------
Mash In - 60 min @ 153F

Hops
-------
11 lbs Cascade (Pellets, 7.20% AA) - Steep/Whirlpool 75.0 min
11 lbs Columbus (Pellets, 15.70% AA) - Steep/Whirlpool 75.0 min
22 lbs Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) - Dry Hop Day 10

Other
-------
40 g Whirlfloc G @ 15 mins

Water
-------
200 ml Phosphoric Acid 75% @ Mash
1.00 lb Calcium Chloride @ Mash
0.70 lb Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash
50 ml Phosphoric Acid 75% @ Sparge

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
120
150
100
20
5
100

Yeast
-------
RVA Manchester Ale #132

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/29/18

Collected 315 gallons of water.

All salts and 100 ml acid right after mash-in. Ran rakes for 15 minutes, started recirculation 10 minutes after mash in. After 10 min of recirculation, measured temp at 152.8F.

Measured mash pH at 5.42, add 50 mL more acid. 5.39, add 50 mL more acid. 5.34.

Sparge water 183F, pH 6.47 with acid addition - more next time

Start of boil with 11 bbls of 1.055 runnings.

Added 1 bbl of cold water at the start of the whirlpool. Combined temperature 196F, added hops.

Run-off started at 66F. .5L/min of O2 through in-line stone.

Ended up with a wort temperature of 64F. Set tank to to 66F. By the next morning the glycol chiller had popped the breaker and the tank was at 69F... Reset and lowered to 67F.

8/31 Raised set-point to 69F to ensure finish.

9/3 Fermentation appears nearly complete from lack of CO2 production. Tastes good, better hop aroma than expected. Up to 70F to ensure it is done before soft crashing.

9/6 Harvested yeast. Left blow-off open so no dissolved CO2.

9/7 Dry hopped with 22 lbs of Citra through the top port while running 25 PSI of CO2 and blow-off arm closed. Closed everything and add 5 PSI as head pressure.

9/8 Pushed 15 PSI through racking arm for 1 minute to rouse, 18 hours after dry hopping. Dropped temperature to 54F.

9/9 Pushed 15 PSI through racking arm for 1 minute. Dropped temperature to 50F.

9/10 Crashed to 36F.

9/12 Moved to bright tank. 3 L/min of CO2 set to 16 PSI got to ~11 PSI at 36 F. 2.6 volumes of CO2 prior to kegging.

9/15 Kegged, 17 kegs with the last almost full.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Hoppy-Spicy Rye Golden Ale

Split Test Batch Rye

I have nothing against brewing to-style. You can make magnificent and delicious beers by using ingredients from a single region with the goal of a classic balance. That isn't who I am as a brewer though. The recipe for Sapwood Cellars' False Dragon is the sort that I'm passionate about. We selected ingredients from all over the globe to create a flavors and aromas that aren't authentic to any one tradition. What I wanted was an earthy-crisp malt flavor, a white-winey hop aroma (for less money than Nelson Sauvin), and a subtle spicy and fruity-boost from the yeast without getting in the way. That required malts from America and England, hops from America and Germany, and yeast from England and Belgium.

Scott adding Centennial hops to the whirlpool

I'd been experimenting with the hop bill for a few months to get the ratio right, and eventually settled on 2:1 in favor of Mosaic. After a few test batches, Scott and I have embraced adding less expensive hops on the hot-side (Cascade, Columbus, Chinook, Centennial etc.) with the more aromatic and expensive varieties saved for the fermentor. I wanted to split my homebrewed test batch to compare S-04 alone against S-04 with 8% T-58. As with Ziparillo, dry yeast is cost-effective especially if you can't repitch thanks to early or mid-fermentation dry hopping. Belgian strains have shown heightened biotranformation abilities is some studies, so it seemed like a good candidate for double dry-hopping.

Dry yeast pitched into a 10 bbl batch

For the 10 bbl batch we decided to fill-in a gap in our range when the first batch of Rings of Light (our Citra dry-hopped hazy pale ale) came in under-alcohol at 4.8% thanks to lower-than-expected efficiency. In effect the two recipes switched places with False Dragon becoming the "bigger" pale ale at 5.3% rather than the 4.7% of the test batch. Our attenuation has been lower than expected across the board for our first five batches too. We're still trying to figure out the cause given it has happened with multiple yeast strains - likely mash related. Luckily our hop flavor and aroma have both been wildly better than either Scott or I have been able to achieve at home, I'm sure surface-to-volume ratio plays a role.

Your first chance to try this beer is at the Sapwood Cellars grand opening, Noon-10 PM on Saturday 9/29. We'll be open Thursday-Friday 4-10 PM and Saturdays Noon-10 PM from then on. Stop in, drink a beer, say hello!

The name False Dragon come from The Wheel of Time series of books by Robert Jordan. My commute has gone from 20 minutes on the subway to my desk job to ~40 minutes by car. Audio books are my new friend. While I'm sure brewing podcasts would be a more productive use of my time, after 12 hours brewing it is nice to have a little escapism.

Test batch False Dragon with S-04

False Dragon S-04

Smell – Had to go for a fresh pour after taking photos as it had gone a hint skunky after five minutes in the sun… Nose is a fresh “true” hop aroma to the Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc. White wine, but also some blueberry and green/herbaceous. Certainly Nelson-reminiscent, but a unique character as well.

Appearance – Pale yellow, pleasantly hazy. Good head and lacing, but the foam itself feels airy on the tongue. I guess I’ve gotten used (and miss) to the contribution of chit malt.

Taste – A firm amount of bitterness in the finish, but it doesn’t linger. Light and bright with the tropical-fruity hops starring. Rye doesn’t really make a strong showing, although I’ve always found it more subtle than some others taste.

Mouthfeel – The rye helps prevent it from being watery, but it is a summery pale ale. Glad we ended up a little higher OG/FG on the big batch. Medium carbonation, nice for a lighter beer.

Drinkability & Notes – A pleasant session IPA. The Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc work better together than apart.

Changes for Next Time – 10% chit in place of the base malt wouldn’t hurt. Could certainly up the rye too for a bigger contribution.

Test batch False Dragon with S-04 and T-58

S-04 and T-58

Smell – More rounded, less grassy-distinct hop aroma. Tropical, juicy, inviting. The green flavors are now more honeydew melon. Impossible to say how much of that is actual hop chemical reaction, or synergistic between the hops and esters. Lightly bready.

Appearance – Looks similar in terms of head, color, and clarity.

Taste – Lower perceived bitterness. A more saturated/integrated fruity hop flavor. Passionfruit especially. I think this is the more approachable and interesting beer, and distinct from the other English-only fermentation we are doing (using RVA Manchester). Slightly elevated phenols, but much lower than from the WB-06 in Ziparillo.

Mouthfeel – Slightly creamier (perhaps just the lower perceived bitterness?), identical carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – I was able to identify these pretty easily in a blind tasting. It is amazing how much impact such a small amount of yeast can make.

Changes for Next Time – We decided to back down the T-58 4.4% of the blend to allow a bit more of that fresh/distinct hop character through. Other than the higher gravity, the recipe was otherwise unchanged for the 315 gallon batch! We’ll probably up the rye for batch #2 now that we know we can handle higher percentages of high beta-glucan huskless grains.

False Dragon - Test Batch

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 4.1
IBU: 30.0
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.012/1.012
ABV: 4.7%
Final pH: 4.43/4.49
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
75.6% - 17 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
14.4% - 3.25 lbs Briess Rye Malt
10.0 % - 2.25 lbs Crisp Floor Malted Maris Otter

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 156F

Hops
-------
8.00 oz Centennial (Pellet, 7.20%) @ 30 min Steep/Whirlpool
6.00 oz Mosaic (Pellet, 12.25%) @ Dry Hop Day 3
3.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellet, 10.50%) @ Dry Hop Day 3
6.00 oz Mosaic (Pellet, 12.25%) @ Dry Hop Day 7
3.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellet, 10.50%) @ Dry Hop Day 7

Other
-------
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins

Water
-------
18 g Calcium Chloride
12 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
6 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10%

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
150
150
150
15
10
90

Yeast
-------
11.5 g SafAle S-04 English Ale
or
11.5 g SafAle S-04 English Ale
1 g SafBrew T-58 Specialty Ale

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/19/18

Mash pH = 5.44 (at mash temp) after acid additions.

Collected 14.5 gallons of 1.046 runnings.

Added heat to maintain a whirlpool temperature of 200F.

Chilled to 64F. Half with 1 g of T-58 and 11 g of S-04, and half with only 11 g of S-04. Left at 62F ambient to begin fermentation after shaking to aerate.

69F internal temperature during peak fermentation.

8/22 Dry hopped each with 3 oz of Mosaic and 1.5 oz of Hallertau Blanc.

8/27 Second dry hop for both.

9/1 Kegged both, 1.012, moved to fridge to chill.

9/2 Hooked up to gas and tapped to remove sludge. S-04 batch clogged poppet a few times.

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Brite tank sample of False Dragon

Monday, September 10, 2018

I, Beer: What Goes Into Brewing

I, Pencil is a classic economics essay from 1958 by Leonard Read about the complexity of making a pencil. The iconic yellow #2 seems so simple, yet no one person could make it on their own (e.g., harvest the rubber, synthesis the polymers and pigments for the eraser, create the yellow paint, precisely cut the wood and graphite, mine and forge the metal band etc. ). The global economy doesn't have any person or group coordinating all of this activity, but to earn money people and companies fill niches, specialize, and compete to buy and sell in ways that creates things of immense complexity requiring the sum work of hundreds of people across continents so you can buy a pencil for $.25. This video gives a more hands-on view of what it takes to make a chicken sandwich when you don't buy anything from a supermarket.

It is tempting to say that beer isn’t like that. After all, each all-grain batch starts with the four basic ingredients and we do the rest… sure it would be a challenge to grow and malt barley, harvest and dry hops, isolate/propagate wild yeast, and haul water from a local stream, but what vessels would you use to boil/ferment? What about sanitizer, minerals, clarifiers, compressed CO2?

What follows is a high-level overview of what is required to brew a single batch of beer at Sapwood Cellars. Obviously, you could keep digging deeper into each one of these, peeling back layer-after-layer to the inputs of each input (e.g., the shoes that the hop harvester was wearing). I’ll arbitrarily stop where I lose interest. Needless to say though, the work of thousands in not millions of people goes into each of our batches. Scott and I just get the credit (or blame) because we're the ones at the end of the chain!

Ingredients

Water

Our water comes from Liberty Reservoir. From there it goes to Baltimore’s Ashburton water treatment plant. Baltibrew posted a nice series on the Baltimore water system. Luckily for us the existing minerals are mostly beneficial to the character of our beer. The carbonate is a bit higher than we’d like, but not by enough to require the waste of reverse osmosis.

Once pipes take it to the brewery it passes through a carbon filter to remove chlorine, and then an on-demand hot water heater. The fuel is natural gas piped into the brewery by BG&E (by way of fracking or older methods, and then refining). From there the water travels through a hose to our hot liquor tank where an electric element allows us to adjust the temperature. The electricity comes from a mix of fossil fuels, nuclear, and ~5% renewables.

To adjust the mineral content of the water, we add calcium chloride (from limestone-hydrochloric acid reaction or natural brine concentration) and calcium sulfate (harvested and refined from gypsum rock deposits). In addition, we add 75% phosphoric acid to adjust the pH of the water. Phosphoric acid is usually produced by combustion, hydration, and demisted from three ingredients: phosphorus, air, and water.


Grains

The grain we mash is a mixture of barley, wheat, oats, and rye depending on the beer. These are grown primarily on farms in North America and Europe. It is then soaked, sprouted, dried, and kilned by a maltster. The precise equipment required varies by malt and producer. In some cases it is a large industrial operation, in others the malt is still manually turned. The bulk of our base malt is Rahr brewer’s 2-row from Minnesota, but in our first order we also had sacks from Briess, Chateau, Simpsons, Crisp, Best etc. Most of the unmalted flaked grains (steamed and rolled to gelatinize their starches) are from Grain Millers.

We decided to hold-off on buying our own mill, to save the cost at the start… but after a few brews I can say a mill and auger are in our near future. We order our grains from Brewers Supply Group, which pre-mills the grain. We also occasionally add a few sacks to a Maryland Homebrew order from Country Malt.

Once we’re done with the now “spent” grain, they are picked-up by Keith of Porch View Farms. He feeds it to his animals as most of the carbohydrates are extracted into the wort, but proteins remain.


Hops

Our hops are grown throughout the higher latitudes of the globe, primarily the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but also Australia, Germany, and Czech Republic. The hops are first stripped from their bines, dried in an oast, and then baled. After selection, various lots are blended to create a consistent product and the hops are pulverized and pelletized. They are then vacuum-packed in mylar and stored cold to preserve their aromatics. Our hops primarily came from Hop Havoc, but we’re working on getting contracts for the upcoming harvest.


Yeast

Most of the yeast we’re using are the decedents of yeast that have been fermenting beer for hundreds or thousands of years. A couple hundred years ago their ancestors were part of a mixed-culture at breweries in England and Belgium, only to be lucky (and talented) enough to be isolated as a pure culture that gained success. Our Saccharomyces cerevisiae so far has come from RVA, Fermentis, and Lallemand for our “clean” beers. These needed to be isolated, propagated, and in some cases dried.

The sour and wild beers are too complex to track. They come from labs, bottle dregs, and a house culture. They may have come via a barrel, the breeze, an insect, or any number of other vectors into a brewery or labs. For example the Hanseniaspora vineae we are fermenting a hoppy sour for Denizen's Make It Funky festival came from Wild Pitch Yeast which isolated it from tree bark.


Fruit

We don’t have any beers far enough along for fruit, but we’re planning to source as much of it as we can directly from local farms and orchards. Most fruit is at its best when it is picked ripe and used quickly. I'm sure we'll use dried fruit, aseptic purees, juices, and freeze-dried fruits depending on quality, availability, and desired results as well. The first batch will probably be a tart saison on grape pumace (the pressed skins) from a local natural winery.


Other Consumables

Gas

Carbon dioxide is usually produced as a byproduct of some other activity (e.g., hydrocarbon processing). Our CO2 is stored in a 750 lb tank in a liquid state. We use it to carbonate and serve beer. It isn't economical at our scale to recapture the CO2 released by fermentation. Our supplier is Robert’s Oxygen.

As the air on Earth is 70% nitrogen it is usually concentrated with the use of a nitrogen generator. These rely on a membrane that allows nitrogen through. We need nitrogen to help push the beer through the long-lines from our walk-in to the tasting room (pure CO2 would lead to over-carbonation at those pressures). As the second most abundant gas in the atmosphere, oxygen generation uses similar technologies. We pump .5L/minute into the wort as it exits the heat exchanger, the yeast quickly uses it to create sterols for healthy cell walls when they bud. We get these two gases in large cylinders that are swapped out.

Chemicals

We need cleaners like caustic (sodium hydroxide) to remove organic deposits, and a phosphoric-nitric acid blend to remove inorganic beer stone and passivate the stainless steel. For sanitation we use iodophor for fittings in buckets, and peracetic acid for the tanks. These are made in a variety of industrial processes that I’m totally unaware of. Our chemicals are provided by Zep/AFCO.

Clarifier

Whirlfloc G helps proteins clump together in the last 15 minutes of the boil to be left behind. It is derived from Irish moss (seaweed) that is dried and granulated. As a vegan brewery, no gelatin or isinglass for us.

Barrels

Oak barrels start as oak trees. They are processed into planks, and then purchased by a cooperage which dries (either in a kiln or naturally). They are then assembled into barrels with metal hops, toasted, and sealed. From there they go to vineyards and distilleries that age their products in them. Beer is best in barrels that have already lost much of their oak character, so we buy them from other producers. A small amount of the wine or spirit is still present in the wood, providing a moderate contribution to the first batch, diminishing with each additional batch.


Equipment

The stainless steal for the vast majority of our equipment comes from China. Our brewhouse was constructed by Forgeworks in Colorado. Our fermentors and bright tank from Apex and DME in China. Our keg washer from Colorado Brewing.

The cooling of the fermentors is accomplished by a glycol chiller from G&D Chillers in Oregon. The ethylene glycol itself comes from ethylene and oxygen. The chiller also assists chilling the wort with our two-stage Thermaline heat exchanger (primarily more stainless steel). The copper pipes that carry the glycol are insulated with Armaflex. The flow of the glycol to individual tanks is controlled by electronic temperature sensors and solenoid valves.

Other equipment includes hydrometer, refractometer, pH meter, hoses, gaskets, and all manner of other valves and fittings.

For the space itself there was already plenty of concrete, bricks and metal. We hired Kolb Electric and B&B Pipefitters to do the installation of the bulk of the wires, pipes, and connections.

There is also everything that goes into serving a beer once it is ready. Kegs (Corny kegs for the sours and infusions, sanke for the standard clean beers), stainless steel fittings, beer lines, glasses (including the printed logo and the glasswasher) etc.


What’s the Point?

I don’t really have one. To me it is just remarkable how much of the complexity of brewing a batch of beer is now hidden in the inputs. I know how to brew beer at my house or a brewery, but if you put me out in the woods even with all the ingredients, I couldn’t brew a batch. Thinking about what is required for each batch makes me appreciate how nice it is to live in a time when I can brew beer as simply as going online and ordering the equipment and ingredients I want. It also shows me how much I still have to learn about making beer.

At the same time, it means that beers everywhere are mostly separated by the choices the brewer makes rather than the availability of ingredients. The exchange of information accelerated by the Internet. I hope there continue to be regional variations, specialties, and preferences. Traveling isn't as exciting when everyone brews NEIPA and pastry stouts.